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Piece of Mind: Warming to the idea of self-driving cars

September 26, 2012|By Carol Cormaci

Have you seen the flurry of news reports about our governor signing into law Tuesday a bill that will allow testing of autonomous cars? The control freak in me, the one who also happens to love to be behind the wheel of a car, finds it slightly disturbing that we’re moving into an age when our vehicles will handle all the details we drivers are so accustomed of dealing with — steering and braking among them. But the futurist that lurks inside sees all kinds of wonderful possibilities with the technology, including video cameras, sensors and artificial-intelligence software that will be used on these chariots.

Once all the refinements are made and production of these vehicles is commonplace, seniors and disabled people will no longer have to be at the mercy of drivers to ferry them around. Instead, they’ll be able to just climb into their autonomous cars and be off to the grocery store, medical appointments, lunch dates, you name it. These autonomous vehicles will handle everything, including parking chores, although I’m not sure what happens if one such car tries to beat another to an open space. Will they honk at each other? Or send laser death rays?

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Anyway, it is kind of exciting to think of the ways self-driving cars might vastly improve our quality of life. Maybe moms and dads won’t feel so harried if the autonomous cars can one day take over the job of getting their kidlets to campus. Just toss the children in, wave goodbye, and let the car return to the garage when the task is completed. Might this new development lead to a day when we don’t have to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, ever, because driver’s licenses will be abolished? Sounds good to me.

The criminals might not find the technology to be a boon to their business. It’s my understanding that streets, particularly at intersections, will have sensors that will control traffic flow. Signals will be unnecessary. Will robbers have a more difficult time making clean getaways if these autonomous cars all flow together at one pace?

And, will tickets for driving under the influence be eliminated? I’m just thinking out loud here.

There will also be some who will balk at the newfangled mode of transportation. Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged this. He was quoted by CNN this week as saying, “Anybody who first gets in the car and finds the car is driving will be a little skittish. But they’ll get over it.”

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